ABS vs PBT Keycaps: What’s the significant difference?


ABS vs PBT Keycaps both are the most common and dominant keycaps as well as plastic materials that are used to make keycaps for mechanical keyboards.

But do you know?

A good keycap can enhance your productivity and efficiency during typing on a keyboard or playing fast-paced games.

As both plastic materials have very significant differences like ABS has its own feel, design layout, and look however some believe PBT equipped higher quality and durability than ABS.

It’s not that going too simple to verdict without understanding the specifications, structure, and working mechanism of both keycaps.

If you are determined to find the desired keycaps for your keyboard and stuck on ‘which one should I get or Which keycap is compatible with my keyboard?’

I’m here to bring an article for you which aims to provide a meticulously study of ABS vs PBT Keycaps and help you to pick the best.

First of all, let’s understand some basic concepts of the keycap.

What is a Keycap?

A keycap is a small plastic cover and essential part of a mechanical keyboard that illustrates to indicate the key function or identifies the input (symbol or a letter) into the computer.

The most significant thing which users look at before buying a keycap is from which plastic material it is built?

  • is it ABS?
  • or is it PBT?

Let’s break down the differences between these two keycaps through a comparison table.

What are ABS Keycaps?

ABS keycaps are generally made from Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene(ABS) which is a type of affordable copolymer plastic and commonly used to make keycaps for keyboards.

ABS is the widely used keycap on most budget keyboards because it is cheap to produce as well as strong and durable too.

As far as the production of ABS Keycaps is concerned, it is designed to offer resistance, durability and can survive millions of keystrokes.

The frequent exposure to UV light can also impact its life and make it prone to fade.

The copolymer plastic which is used while making ABS is more flexible and sensitive to heat that allows doing molding process very easily and resists shrinking during this process.

Ocean Blue ABS Keycaps

Tai-Hao Ocean Blue ABS Keycaps

The main drawback associated with the ABS keycaps is their letters are starting to fade as well as the upper layer gets thin after a very long time of usage.

This generally occurs with the low-grade ABS keycaps but you can go with the GMK manufacturer which only makes very high-grade ABS Keycaps.

GMK is high in demand among the keyboard community although they are a bit on the expensive side.

Overall, ABS is the most economical keycap that comes with high durability on the market.

Pros

  • Durable and Economical
  • Widely available
  • The molding process is easy.

Cons

  • Letter fades with respect to time.
  • When Surface wear it produces an unpleasant typing sound.

What are PBT Keycaps?

PBT stands for Polybutylene Terephthalate that is the most durable and hard thermoplastic polymer material mainly used to produce high-quality keycaps.

PBT Keycaps are generally a bit expensive due to having solid in nature and make it difficult to mold during the manufacturing process.

This is the main reason PBT keycaps are more expensive than ABS keycaps and narrowly used in the keyboards.

PBT keycaps have immense characters and functionality like it is more heat and temperature resistance which makes them allow to survive infrequent UV lights and overexposure conditions.

The defining properties of PBT Keycaps are:

  • PBT Keycaps offers a very smooth and premium textured feel while typing on it.
  • They are sturdier and tend to be thicker.
  • PBT keycaps are usually less shiny and equipped with a matte look.
PBT Keycaps

Abrasion Resistant Transparent PBT Keycaps 

Due to the solid and high resistance structure of PBT, it can easily survive with millions of registered keystrokes with extremely heavy pressure.

These PBT Keycaps are widely used in mechanical keyboards and are mostly preferred by the gaming community as they are superbly durable and remain the same even after prolonged usage.

PBT keycaps are way ahead in terms of durability, functionality along it has many unique properties which are lacking in ABS keycaps.

Here are the pros and cons of PBT Keycaps:

Pros

  • Excellent durable
  • High-quality keycaps
  • The melting point is higher than ABS.
  • Produces Deep sound 

Cons

  • Hard to mold and Expensive too.
  • Design options is limited.

ABS vs PBT Keycaps Comparison Table

ABS Keycaps

PBT Keycaps

Full Name

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene

Polybutylene Terephthalate

Material

Copolymer Plastic

Hard Thermo Plastic

Look and Feel

Smooth

Textured

Thickness

Thinner (Except some high-quality ABS keycaps)

Usually Thicker

Melting Point

105-degree

225-degree

Sound

Quieter and unpleasant sound 

Deep, Loud, and Clear Sound

Wear and Tear

More

Comparatively Less

Durability

Durable but Wears Over Time

More Durable

Cost

Generally Economical and Less expensive

Mostly Expensive

1. ABS vs PBT Keycaps Sound

A pleasant and satisfying sound must be a significant factor for a user while choosing a keycap.

As people type perpetually on the keyboard so producing sound should not be too noisy to distract them. It always should be pleasing to hear.

Coming to ABS vs PBT keycap sound profile, both have their distinct sound profile but I would suggest you go with the PBT keycaps sound profile.

Because PBT’s have a slightly louder, rich, and deep sound compared to ABS keycaps.

Since PBT’s are sturdy and have a thick body and rigid material, the sound produced by them is much crisper and more clear which is definitely gonna satisfying to your ears.

It depends on the personal taste too so before making a decision here is the video you should watch to take a real feel of both keycap’s sound:

Source: :3ildcat

 

2. Texture and Plastic Used

ABS vs PBT Keycaps

Image Credit: mechtype.com

A significant difference between ABS vs PBT Keycaps is the plastic material they are built with. Both keycaps are made with different plastic materials so obviously result would be different too.

ABS keycaps are generally constructed with ABS plastic material so they are equipped with a smooth and shiny finish.

Whereas PBT Keycaps are made with the copolymer, high-quality, and solid plastic so they come with rough textures and a matte finish.

It is not necessary that all ABS keycaps come with low qualitative plastics, some good brands offer high-quality ABS keycaps too.

3. Thickness

The thickness of a keycap is a very important aspect when durability and build quality are concerned, A PBT Keycaps usually have a thick body structure whereas A ABS is slightly thinner.

But it depends too, in some cases A good quality ABS keycap is also available with a thick body structure as well as provides great durability like PBT’s.

So you have to choose carefully before buying a keyset for your keyboard.

In terms of ABS vs PBT keycaps thickness,  Most PBT’s have an edge and are slightly thicker than ABS.

4. Melting Point

The Melting Point of a keycap can be referred to as at which temperature a substance changes its state.

So a low melting point ensures an easy molding process and a high melting point means it is difficult to mold.

ABS keycaps can easily be molded at a low temperature around 105-degree so it takes the least energy to be made and sounds economical. 

However, A PBT keycap needs more temperature around 225-degree to be molded as a result PBT keycaps are more expensive than ABS due to the difficult molding process.

Sometimes key warping problems can be occurred in PBT’s due to their very long cooling period time.

If you are looking for DIY keycap inking between ABS vs PBT Keycaps, PBT keycaps are a great choice for you due to their high melting point which makes it ideal to put ink into the plastic.

5. Cost

Price is a supreme deal-maker factor that users can not ignore so it is a must prior thing users keep in mind before buying any product.

In the case of ABS vs PBT Keycaps, the cost of PBT keycaps are generally more expensive than ABS as we already discussed above PBT’s are very difficult to mold due to their hard and tough substance.

Whereas ABS keycaps are a more economical and budget-friendly option in the market since their molding process is easy so it cost less to produce.

In fact, some ABS keycaps are expensive too than PBT’s due to some high-quality materials along with some unique design.

So if you looking for a keycap that is highly durable with a great build then PBT should be a choice any day.

Is PBT or ABS better for gaming?

Before getting to the conclusion first of all we should know the requirements which need to be equipped for a perfect gaming keycap.

For the fast-paced games, a user is required to move their fingers very frequently along with he has to respond within a second or users could register a key with heavy pressure.

To choose between ABS vs PBT Keycaps, PBT keycaps are definitely the best choice for gaming to handle above all these conditions as PBT provides excellent durability than ABS as well as PBT keycaps are well designed to survive with extremely heavy pressure during a keystroke.

As both keycaps are made of plastic but PBT’s copolymer plastic is way tougher, high resistant, and qualitative.

So the result would be splendid too with PBT’s!!

What are Double Shot Keycaps?

Double Shot Keycaps

The Double Shot Keycaps are produced when two separate layers of plastic are molded into each other to produce an advanced-level keycap.

The process which is used to make double shot keycaps are more advanced as well as complicated than the standard one.

There are various different reasons to make double shot keycaps but the main reason is to produce a kind way that lighting can pass through the legends and generate impressive shine.

By the illumination of the legends, the letters on the keyboards are easier to read as well as look stunning to the users.

Both ABS and PBT keycaps can be constructed through the Double Shot process.

I have found the best Double Shot PBT keycap for you: Check here on Amazon

What are Pudding Keycaps?

Pudding Keycaps

HyperX White Pudding Keycaps

The production process of Pudding Keycaps is quite similar to the double shot keycaps. In fact, both share many similarities in terms of design and characters.

The Double shot and Pudding Keycaps both are responsible for illuminating the lights of a keyboard.

The remarkable difference between these two keycaps is that ‘the pudding cap not just illuminates the legends but also shines through the sides of the keycaps as well.’

If you are looking to upgrade Pudding Keycaps for your keyboard, I have found the best Pudding keycap for you: Check here on Amazon

Conclusion

In this article, I have compared both common and most popular ABS vs PBT Keycaps with all possible and consequential factors.

From their melting point to their cost, every single factor has importance and can be decisive for a user.

As you read in this post, both keycaps have some advantages and some downsides too so it completely comes down to user preference.

ABS and PBT both are suitable for different purposes, so if you want a keycap that is pocket-friendly and quite durable then your hand should be on ABS Keycaps.

If budget is not your primary concern, your hand should be on PBT Keycaps without a doubt.

In the end, it’s you my friend who to decide.

I hope this post was helpful to you.

Cheers!!


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